Hitchin and Harpenden MP defends standards reform vote

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

Hitchin and Harpenden's Bim Afolami has defended his decision to vote against the suspension of Owen Paterson, just hours before the North Shropshire representative quit as an MP.

Mr Paterson, who was an MP for 24 years, was caught up in controversy after he was found have broken lobbying rules during his £110,000-a-year private sector work.

On Wednesday the Prime Minister encouraged Conservative MPs to pass a motion in favour of ignoring a month-long Commons suspension for Mr Paterson, prompting accusations of corruption.

But despite a government U-turn with the promise of a new vote on the matter, Mr Paterson decided to resign from the House of Commons.

Bim Afolami said prior to the resignation: “It has become increasingly clear that the current standards procedures in Parliament are not fit for purpose and do not reflect the best practice in other sectors. Yesterday MPs voted to create a committee to consider ways to improve the current system.

"This would include an appeals process as recommended by the eighth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, consisting of an independent adjudication panel chaired by a retired High Court Judge.

"The amendment does not exonerate Owen Paterson, nor does it rewrite the current rules on lobbying. It is regrettable that the specific case of Owen Paterson and the reforms to the standards procedures have been conflated.

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"I am very clear that MPs should not use public office for private gain and I am pleased that this morning the Government has committed to working cross-party to create a fairer standards system. It is vital that those who break the rules are held to account for having done so, but that must be under a robust system.”

Richard Scott of Hitchin and Harpenden Liberal Democrats said: "Following a two year investigation by the independent Parliamentary Standards Committee, Owen Paterson was found guilty of repeatedly breaching Parliament’s own rules by lobbying ministers and officials of behalf of two companies which paid him more than £100,000 a year.

"So serious were Paterson’s offences that the Committee reported: 'No previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests.'

"On Wednesday, in support of a shameful amendment raised by Andrea Leadsom, Bim Afolami voted in favour of overriding the conclusions of this detailed, independent investigation and letting his Tory pal Paterson off the hook.

"By once again putting his career first, and obediently following the Tory Whip rather than showing any sense of personal integrity, Mr Afolami is explicitly condoning sleaze and corruption in public office.

"Frankly, it is one rule for us little people and another rule for Afolami and his masters in the Conservative Party."


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